The Writers’ Room (Part 3): The Mythical Muse and Getting Stuck We’re back in the Writers’ Room with our eight international and local writers.

The muse- real or an urban myth?



Gothataone Moeng:    I do think muses are real, but as really fragile floaty sort of things, like a whisper, or a soft breeze.  She will visit you and whisper something into your ear or your consciousness, but after that it’s up to you to go with it.  If you don’t note it down, she floats right past.

Fiona Snyckers: My muse is called Doris and she’s a real nag.  She whines at me in an East-Enders accent until I finally stop procrastinating and start writing.  Her tactic is to use fear, verbal abuse and humiliation until I can’t stand it anymore and would do anything to make her be quiet – even write.

Tania Hershman: A bit of both, in my opinion. Is there a muse I need to wait for in order to write, something outside myself that sends story gold my way? No. The muse is me – I see inspiration everywhere, in everything. I am slowly coming to the realisation that that we all have Story Sense, that if you don’t push it, if you let it unfold, your subconscious – or wherever it comes from – will lead you through the story.

Cheryl Ntumy: I’m a believer in the muse, but I’m not sure I have just one. I like to think that stories are just floating around looking for a viable scribe, and when they find one they jump into her head and take over. A lot of my short stories come from dreams.

Jenny Robson: Two sets of muses, actually. There are my two sons who are the lights of my life. Just thinking about them makes me want to do the best work I am capable of, to give them reason to feel proud of me.  And then there are all the kiddies I have taught over the years here in Botswana: each one unique and special and giving me insight into the complex wonder that is the human spirit.

Sue Guiney: Wouldn’t it be lovely to have one specific muse who I could call upon to come sit on my shoulder and whisper in my ear? But alas…there are people I read to get me writing (like Billy Collins for poetry), but I don’t really have a muse. I think the closest thing that comes to providing me with inspiration is travel. And sitting by myself in a restaurant with a glass of wine makes me feel just paranoid enough to feel like an observer, an outsider, and that inevitably gets the juices flowing.

Beatrice Lamwaka: The muse is an urban legend because I have written several stories because a deadline was looming and I had to write and the stories came pretty well. It’s better to write it and the muse will find you when you are busy writing.

Wame Molefhe:If she really exists for me, then she is a nocturnal creature. I often go to bed with a vague idea and wake up with a clearer sense of what I want to say. Maybe she whispers to me.


So when you’re stuck what do you do?

Tania Hershman: I use techniques to distract me – I don’t get writer’s block, but I do recognise a point in a story where I need to stop writing because I don’t know what’s happening next. So I go off and do something else, which may be working on another story, or may involve online Scrabble!

Wame Molefhe: I stop writing.  I take a break. I take a walk (in summer). I read.

Cheryl Ntumy: Write something else. I usually have several projects going at once because I get bored very quickly. When I get stuck with one, or lose steam, I go back to the other one, or I take a break from writing and just read, watch movies and do nothing for a week or so. Soon enough the urge comes back. Reading my work to my sister also helps – she’s my personal editor and always helps get me back on track. She spots things I miss and always has good advice.

Beatrice Lamwaka: I read a lot and sometimes, I just write and try to make sense of what I have written later and slowly I find myself and we are on the road to a good story.

Fiona Syckers: I try to stick to a daily word target even when I’m feeling blocked.  The act of just getting the words out, even if I know they’re no good and are going to have to be cut in the end, seems to get me over the tough patches.

Gothataone Moeng:   Sleep.  Seriously.  I tend to write late nights or early mornings, and if I go to bed with a problem with my mind, I find that sometimes I wake up with a workable solution.

Jenny Robson: Complain a lot to my friends, especially fellow-writers who will give me sympathy and pep-talks. But it passes, thank goodness. One half-good idea and I’m back to feeling inspired and excited.

Sue Guiney: Walk away and do something completely different, like go for a walk, exercise or eat.

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